During this past year, the Preserving Families blog looked at trauma, kinship care, opioids, reunification, and the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
The Family First Act appears to have been custom-designed for Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS). Both Family First and IFPS target children who are at imminent risk of out-of-home placement in order to prevent unnecessary placement of children and help families stay safely together. IFPS has been in use for many years and is highly effective at keeping families together.
The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is issuing implementation policies for Family First. All services and programs funded by Family First (50% federal matching funds) must be Evidence-Based Practice and approved by a clearinghouse. ACF has selected 10 programs for initial review and approval by the clearinghouse. Unfortunately, no model of IFPS was selected for initial review. States need to conduct their own research to establish IFPS programs as Evidence-Based Practice.
For more information on implementation of Family First and the clearinghouse visit https://www.cwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ACYF-CB-PI-18-09-State-FFPSA-Prevention-PI.pdf and https://www.cwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ACYF-CB-PI-18-09-Attachment-C-Clearinghouse-Initial-Criteria.pdf.
ACF is also issuing guidance on other aspects of child welfare. One long-overlooked critical aspect of court involvement in child welfare is reasonable efforts. ACF is breathing new life into reasonable efforts after years of neglect: “evidence remains scarce based on round 3 of the Child and Family Services Review, court observation work conducted across the country by Court Improvement Programs, and current trends in child welfare outcome data that reasonable efforts determination is treated with the rigor or seriousness required under the law.”
Federal law requires courts to determine whether the child welfare agency has made or not made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children from their parents. Early on, reasonable efforts were often defined as providing IFPS services to a family. Currently, reasonable efforts have nearly faded into oblivion. Yet, 98% of appeals following termination of parental rights raise the issue of reasonable efforts. Thus, reasonable efforts is only being raised as a legal requirement when it’s too late!
For more details read Judge Len Edwards perspective on reasonable efforts at https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/top-stories/ignoring-reasonable-efforts-why-court-system-fail-promote-prevention
Read the ACF guidance on reasonable efforts here: file:///C:/Users/User/Documents/Reasonable%20Efforts–ACF.html
There will be a lot more to come next year on the Family First Act, reasonable efforts, and other critical issues. In the meantime, thank you for making “beyond reasonable efforts” in helping to preserve families!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Posted by Priscilla Martens, Executive Director